Childhood
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I grew up in North London,my playground was the streets around Langham Road, Turnpike Lane. This was the 1950s, and there were always wrecked houses and abandoned factories to explore,no fences to keep us out. Somebody always had a cut knee or bruised themselves falling over something on what we called The Bombsight, but it was just an adventure to us kids. There were two parks nearby - Downhills and 'The Rec' in Lordship Lane. ATV had a film studio in Wood Green High Road, and the local Gaumont Cinema was just around the corner.As kids we roamed all over.

The Garden
(Above) This was the garden in London. It looks full of colour to me. All I remember is a Lilac tree in the far corner, and that behind the trellis is the brick back wall of another house.

(Left) My parents were keen ballroom dancers, which is why I chose this photo.


Bath time

We 'ad it tough when I were a lad. We used t'bath in tin bath in t'garden - we 'ad us no bathroom in them days. Yer try t'tell kids t'day and they wont believe yer.

Front room

This must have been a set up picture because the door leads upstairs to my bedroom, and through it to my sister's room.

Allly Pally

This is Ally Pally as I remember it. Just to the right (out of shot) was the base of 16F Air Cadets, which I joined when I was about 15. I became lead drummer and wanted to join the RAF, but it wasn't to be.


cowboy

Well it looks like I wanted to be a cowboy at one point. I did achieve that aim for a short while when I worked for a company based in Hungerford.There wasn't a car park, just a corral. Heigh ho.

dandare

And then again, maybe I wanted to be an astronaut. With those anti-gravity slippers, why not ?

Lawrence

But no. It was Lawrence of Arabia who was my real hero. Yup, that's who I'll be. Well I did get to see the Sahara.

Dave Crockett

All the boys had a rabbit skin Davy Crockett hat, and that's all I wanted. My mum made this one - out of an off cut of Mink, but I really wanted rabbit.


Strangely, my first day at Belmont Infants is crystal clear even the head teacher's words. How odd is that ? My mum left me at the gates and the head sad to her He'll be okay now, so I suppose I was upset, but I don't remember any more. The inside of the old school building was a long central corridor with an assembly hall about two thirds of the way up. Beyond the hall was the Belmont Senior School,a dreaded secondary modern school that nobody wanted to go to. The inside was painted an awful green and grey, that much is very clear, and the classrooms ranged along the corridor such that the head could walk up and down and peer in through the windows. I recall vividly, standing in assembly with an awful itch on my back (which had been bathed in cold tea) due to sunburn from a holiday at Broadstairs. We also had a holiday at Lancing and many at Hayling Island. I still go to Hayling now and then for some fishing and now my older Son takes his family there. Going to Hayling involved getting us and our cases from North London to the Victoria Coach Terminal in London, and hence by coach to the sea. Looking through old albums for pictures to use, I found many from holidays at Broadstairs and other places, but by the time we started going to Hayling, Dad was into Cine.

Broadstairs 1955 Broadstairs 1955 Donkey Ride Beach

The first three photos above are all from Broadstairs in 1955, but I have no idea where the last one was taken.

Shop window

I do remember that my father was very proud of this photo. There are many different copies in the albums I have. My sisiter and I were not posing for the shot and it seems he caught the moment just right. This was 'The Old Curiosity Shop', at Broadstairs.


My Bike

My first Bike. I look too young for that to be the Downhills Uniform, but I do not remember a Belmont Juniors uniform. Since my blazer for Downhills had a badge on the pocket, it must be from Belmont Juniors.

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Belmont Juniors was a large modern school located across the road (and across a large playing field) from the Infants/Seniors building, and it was here that I went when I left the infants. Again, its odd how little snippets stick in the memory. I was usually the one being beaten up at playtime, but not always. How I came to learn some simple Judo I do not remember, but I did and one day my assailant went flying over my head to land face down on a drain. I got into a lot of trouble over that. I also recall the school trip to the Isle of Wight. My parents could not afford for me to go, so those of us not going had to make work folders for those that were (cheek). I finally got to the Isle of Wight around 1989.

My father had been very active in the Scouting movement, appearing in Ralph Reader's Gang Show. I duly joined the Cubs ( my sister the Brownies), and as I progressed to the Scouts so my sister joined the girl guides. I quite enjoyed the Cubs and the Scouts. The meeting hall was at a church which was at the very edge of Alexandra Palace, North London. Lots of evenings were spent in the woodland that was a short walk away. I left the Scouts over a row; they would not let me wear long trousers.

For 2/6 (12 1/2p), a Red Rover ticket could be purchased which allowed unlimited travel for a day by bus and underground. The main bus station was at the top of my road and I often went off with a packed lunch to explore the bus routes. I remember how disappointed I was to reach St John's Wood, only to find there were no woods there. Another goal was to reach all the ends of the underground lines, and how good it was to reach Cockfosters and discover Barnet Common and all the woods there. As a child I travelled widely around London, and very safely too. I often spent the day at the British Museum, Science Museum and Imperial War Museum. Once I began to go fishing my travels took me to the Thames at Teddington, the River Lea, about 10 miles away, and further to the Lea at Ware in Hertfordshire.

Trying to keep some sort of chronological order here, I took the 11+ and ended up at Downhills Central School. This was a school with the style of a Grammar, but less pressure. Ex pupil Jim Franklin has created the definitive web site for Downhills School and the two pictures here are reproduced with thanks to Jim.

Gilrs playground
Boys playground

This was captioned 'Girls Playground in the 80's, as it was in the 60's. I took art and Geography in the hut. It looks the same in 1980 as it was in 1960.

This too was captioned 'Girls Playground in the 80's. In the 60's it was the boys playground. I have at least two good reasons to remember it. The fence on the left ends at a bramble bush, and first year pupils were thrown into it. Just about dead centre of the picture is where I actually won a fight. Unfortunately my assailant was unconscious at the end, and it was me who got hauled before the head.


One day, I think it was a Sunday, I was walking through the grounds of 'Allly Pally' when I came across what looked like and RAF camp. Inside a group of lads were marching up and down, so I walked in and asked if I could join. That was how I became a member of 16F Air Training Corps.

The ATC had an armoury filled with .303 rifles and a few Bren guns. I imagine none could fire,I am not really sure about that. We learned rifle drill, how to strip a Bren and so on. In addition we were taught the rudiments of mechanics, we had a lecture room with a couple of aircraft engines in it. There were a number of subjects we studied including Morse Code, flight theory (drag and lift and so on), and this was all in our own time, after school. There was also a Link Trainer which was like a blacked out Aircraft cockpit - it was an early flight simulator and great fun to 'fly'. The ATC also had its own band. I learned the bugle (badly), and went onto side drum, eventually becoming lead drummer. We also had yearly camps; I went to one at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk, and another at RAF Arundel. At Arundel we were taken out one night and dumped on the South Downs with a map. Our task was to navigate back to camp. We all made it bar one team and a helicopter had to be sent out to find them.

An uncle had a farm at North Elmham which is a tiny hamlet near Dereham in Norfolk. I went there one summer with my mother, and from then on I would go by coach every year for most of the school holidays. It was on the farm that I learned to drive a tractor, to chase rabbits out of the corn at harvest, and the taste of milk warm from the cow. I was about 15 years old when my uncle entrusted me with his double 12 gauge shotgun. I went into Dereham and bought a box of cartridges, then collected the dog and set out for the day. Later that afternoon I ran all the way back to the farm thinking the dog was dying. It wasn't; it was just old and tired out. What was the day's bag ? Well not a thing actually, zero.The River Wensum ran through my uncle's land and a lot of fishing went on there. It teemed with Pike and they seemed top go for anything we threw in (the 'we' being me and my cousin).

Eventually I got my first cycle and then a whole new world opened up for me. Most of my friends had the bike I really wanted; a Claude Butler frame and Durallier gears, but I had a 'sensible'Raleigh (with the awful Sturmney Archer hub gears). With a paint job and a few bits and pieces I managed to get some street cred ( but not a lot). I cycled miles. The River Lea towpath was a favourite destination. We would take our airguns there and stage battles; nobody got hurt bar the odd pellet hit, okay, we were lucky. By this time my 'territory' was Wood Green High Road, Turnpike Lane, Green Lanes and Seven Sisters Road, Alexandra Palace and of course, the Lea Valley. Once I reached 16 I needed something with an engine.

I left school at fifteen and a half having taken no GCEs. I suppose that when we leave school and start to work, that is when we stop being children so that seems a good place to end this 'Childhood' section. There is some over-lap since my first scooter did not happen until I was sixteen. I could have as easily become a Rocker as a Mod. My Nan had saved 20 for me, and one Sunday, just after my sixteenth birthday, I set off in search of two wheels and an engine. The Scooter I came home with ( pushed all the way home) is on my Cars page. With the scooter I was able to explore the Army ranges near Pirbright. Here I found dozens of live bullets and lots of bags of cordite - little sacks that are tied to mortors to fire them. With the cordite I developed crude bombs based on drilled out broom handles. To ignite them I came up with a percussion and an electrical fuse, and off we (I had a couple of good friends at the time) went to the Lea Marshes again. How nobody ever got hurt I will never know - but we had some big bangs! I would hope that you cannot get on those ranges now, and that if you can the Army is more careful with its ordanance - it was when I served.

The new term at Downhills started in September, and on the first day back I went to see the headmaster, Dr fisher, and left. It was a year or two before I began to regret what I had thrown away and it was much longer until I really understood what Downhills had given me.


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